MIT Energy Conference 2017

March 5th, 2017-

The Stanford Energy Club executive team attended the 2017 MIT Energy Conference at the Cambridge Marriott in Kendall Square this past week. The 12th year of this two-day event explored changes in energy production and conversion, transmission and storage, and consumption with a focus on enabling the next energy paradigm. The conference kicked off with remarks from Robert Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative and Minister Dharmendra Pradhan of the Indian government.

Of the several panels at the event, the most interesting discussion was an Energy Policy Panel on Energy Production titled, “Policy headwinds and tailwinds”. The talk focused on the state of addressing global climate change after the Paris Climate Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, and the recent presidential election. The objective of the panel was to explore the implications of domestic and global policy events on the trajectory of energy development and the impacts of energy consumption on climate change. On one side, Jack Spencer (VP of the Heritage foundation) talked about policy of the Trump administration and whether taxing carbon is an effective method. On the other side,  Barbara Kates Garnick (Fletcher School at Tufts) and Nicholas Ashford (Professor of Technology and Policy at MIT) addressed aligning policies to promote low-carbon systemic innovation. Spencer, who was on the Trump transition team, mentioned that the 050 Weapons and Environmental Cleanup National Security Budget will not be affected, however, it will come at the cost of cuts to commercialization and applied science. Spencer said, “ I do not believe in picking winners and losers.” Spencer went further saying that implementing top-down federal regulation of carbon is unnecessary, sparking debate from Ashford who even went as far as saying, “I think that this is a debate from the 1960’s.”

Another panel of interest to several members in the audience was a panel on Oil Production titled, “Scraping the Barrel.” The panel brought a diversity of perspective from individuals who have worked in Nigeria, China, Mexico, and several other international settings. The panelists addressed topics ranging in breadth and depth like the impact of natural gas on the local Nigerian economy as well as the overcapacity/ infrastructure investment strategy in China. Members of the audience had the opportunity to ask pointed questions about why a shale revolution in the United States would come to fruition, but would struggle in similarly endowed nations like China and Argentina. Paul Sheng, one of the panelists mentioned, “ Open access to acreage and mineral rights as well as well head-to-market fiscal systems allow for growth in the United States to be possible.”

Above all the MIT Energy Conference brought together energy leaders from industry, government, the scientific community, and the private sector that are looking at the whole value chain in a holistic manner. Debates and discussion surrounding these complex issues showed how the energy landscape is continually being redefined by new technologies and policies.

Written by the Stanford Energy Club